New unit defends Japan against space tech threats

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said yesterday that Japan will form a space defence unit to protect itself from potential threats as rivals develop missiles and other technology.

The new unit will work closely with its American counterpart recently launched by United States (US) President Donald Trump.

The Space Domain Mission Unit will start in April as part of Japan’s Air Self-Defence Force, Abe said in a policy speech marking the start of the year’s parliamentary session.

He said Japan must also defend itself from threats in cyberspace and from electromagnetic interference against Japanese satellites.

Concerns are growing that China and Russia are seeking ways to interfere, disable or destroy satellites.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a policy speech in Tokyo. PHOTO: AP

“We will drastically bolster capability and system in order to secure superiority” in those areas, Abe said.

The space unit will be added to an existing air base at Fuchu in the western suburbs of Tokyo, where about 20 people will be staffed ahead of a full launch in 2022.

The role of the space unit is to conduct satellite-based navigation and communications for other troops in the field, rather than being on the ground.

Abe’s Cabinet in December approved USD460 million budget in space-related projects, pending parliamentary approval.

The unit will cooperate with the US Space Command that Trump established in August, as well as Japan’s space exploration agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Abe has pushed for Japan’s Self-Defence Force to expand its international role and capability by bolstering cooperation and weapons compatibility with the US as it increasingly works alongside American troops and as it grows concerned about the increasing capabilities of China and North Korea.

Abe, in marking Sunday’s 60th anniversary of the signing of Japan-US security treaty, said that both countries vowed to bolster Japan’s capability and cooperation with the US including in the areas of space and cyber security. He said he is determined to settle Japan’s “unfortunate past” with North Korea, as he hopes to “sum up” his country’s post-war legacies before his term expires next year.

He said he is determined to settle Japan’s “unfortunate past” with North Korea, as he hopes to “sum up” his country’s post-war legacies.He reiterated his intention to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without the conditions he had demanded in the past — denuclearising the Korean Peninsula.